On July 28, the Georgian Dream took an unexpected step for many - the party left the April 19 agreement, the document which the President of the Council of Europe, Charles Michel developed after a long process negotiating the two sides.
Georgian Dream annuls Charles Michel agreement
By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Wednesday, August 4
The agreement was annulled 100 days after signing. This move by the current Georgian government has created a new political reality, to which an urgent response is needed from the opposition and the Western friends involved in the agreement.
The April 19 agreement was a solution to the six-month political crisis that erupted in Georgia after the 2020 parliamentary elections. By signing this document, the Georgian Dream once again gained the trust of its Western friends and introduced the boycotted opposition into parliament.
The April 19 agreement was a ‘road map’ that was supposed to correct the undemocratic shortcomings of Georgia's political system and make way for the country's potential EU membership.
This document was primarily intended to establish democratic standards for the conduct of elections and to establish an independent judiciary. It was clear that this posed a threat to an authoritarian system imitating democracy.
The first steps towards the implementation of the April 19 agreement have received serious criticism from the opposition and Western friends. The opposition criticized the Amnesty Law, prepared by Georgian Dream, which also applied to perpetrators of the June 20 violence. As for the continuation of the process of appointing judges before the start of the reform of the judiciary, it was not approved by the Western friends either.
The opposition criticized the Georgian Dream for failing to properly implement the April 19 agreement, but somehow the issue was not properly addressed. The key point for them in the April 19 agreement was that the local self-government elections scheduled for the fall would serve as a referendum - if the Georgian Dream failed to get 43% of the proportional vote, then early parliamentary elections would be called in 2022.
In the snap elections, the opposition predicted victory and the replacement of the Georgian Dream with a coalition government. Recently, one of the main questions has been whether the Georgian Dream would have collected this 43% in the local self-government elections. According to experts, precisely because, according to various preliminary polls, the party could not collect this number of votes, it decided to cancel the April 19 agreement and blame it on the opposition, in particular, the UNM.
Irakli Kobakhidze, Chairman of the Georgian Dream, also said that with the cancellation of the April 19 agreement, the country would return to ‘constitutional mode’ and, if they wished, would hold snap elections if the opposition expressed a desire for ‘constructive cooperation.’
A week before this decision, at an international conference in Batumi, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili assured Charles Michel, who had arrived there, of the party’s commitment to the agreement reached. When and how was the decision to withdraw from the April 19 agreement made? It has been made clear that Bidzina Ivanishvili is the only important decision-maker in the Georgian Dream.
By canceling the agreement on April 19, the Georgian Dream insulted Charles Michel and Georgia's Western partners, who made great efforts to reach this agreement and attached great importance to its implementation.
Representatives of the opposition in Georgia spoke about the inevitability of imposing sanctions from the West. It was also said that the cancellation of the April 19 agreement is tantamount to Yanukovych's refusal to sign a partnership agreement with the European Union in Ukraine. Consequently, the current Georgian government has abandoned its Western orientation and opened the way to Russia.
The first statements of the opposition showed that the decision of the ruling party was unexpected for them. Some believe that the opposition, which entered parliament based on the April 19 agreement, should leave the parliament immediately, while others believe that they should boycott the local self-government elections. According to some, Western friends should be given time to return the Georgian Dream to the format of the agreement. The main thing is that the decision of the opposition is not made on an emotional basis and its main part is being able to act together. Local elections will still be held and some opposition parties will still participate in it, which means that a boycott is not the right move.
However, it is also a reality that the elections will not end in a constructive mode. The attack on the media, which started on July 5, started with the raid of unprecedented media and the financial audit of Mtavari Arkhi.
Attacks and violence on the media have become a ‘public protest’ and the government has distanced itself from these facts, while representatives of the Georgian Dream themselves consider the critical media to be a ‘political force’ acting at the behest of the opposition. Political polarization is deepening as expected before the upcoming elections.